Green Notices Rile Students; The Clery Act Explained
In 1986, a young girl by the name of Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered on LeHigh University's Campus. Jeanne’s death triggered a wave of change in campus safety legislation. This event was a catalyst because of its nature: her death could have been prevented if there had been an alert system. Without an alert system, Jeanne did not know that there was a mysterious man in her residence hall.
In 1990, the Clery Act was signed.
In September of 2016, an email was sent out by campus safety to the whole student body, saying that a student had woken up with a mysterious, uninvited man in his bed. This email was then plastered around campus on campus safety’s signature lime green paper. Students, no matter their class year, voiced their questions as to why such an email had to go out. And for some students, the subject matter and the urgency of the email was said to be triggering.
“There’s kind of this difficult balance between supporting the victim and also notifying the student body,” said Julia Elstein '17, Student Government Vice President for Financial Affairs. Elstein explained that Skidmore’s student government sees the triggering affects the system can and does have, but Elstein doesn’t know if “...it will ever truly be fixed. Seeing those yellow signs is always going to be slightly triggering for anyone who has ever been through it, or even someone who’s had a friend who has been through it.”
The Clery Act, was further amended in 2013 by President Barack Obama. It now requires “institutions of higher education to comply with certain campus safety- and security-related requirements as a condition of their participation in the Title IX, HEA programs” (The Office of Federal Registration). One of these legal requirements is timely notification of students when they may be at risk.
These policies have not been created to excite or hurt any students on campus. Elstein explained, “one thing that I think is uncomfortable is that they are required to go out, and they go out very quickly. I actually knew a student who had flyers that went out for their case, and didn’t know how fast and there was so many details. [The report] almost pinpointed the exact student. It gave the floor of the building and the exact night at this time and how it happened.” Despite the intention of these notices, students sometimes feel hurt threatened by the papers themselves.
Skidmore’s administration has been working closely with the student government to make sure legal requirements and Skidmore’s policies work in tandem to support students. The appointment of a new Title IX deputy coordinator means that the issue of SGBM on campus is now out of the hands of the Dean of Students--which is important to mitigate conflict of interest concerns. And the process of filling out the safety alert forms is changing so “that all students are going to be able to approve those forms if they are about them. So that’s kind of positive, especially since it will be coming from the victim, the survivor,” explained Elstein.
This issue has gotten traction as of late, and although an easy answer will not surface anytime soon, there are resources on campus and active students in the meantime. “Some students have brought up to me that they were hoping to have some sort of survivor group, and so it would be survivors to survivors or something like that,” said Elstein. “I know there’s a lot of students who kind of want that group of people that, even if they aren’t survivors themselves, can relate to things some students just don’t get.”
In the end, these alerts are in place to protect the student body at Skidmore, to keep the students living here safe. But most importantly, students need to know that they are not alone or invalidated if they find these alerts triggering-- there are active groups on and off campus working to alleviate this.
Resources on campus:
The Counseling Center: a confidential source
The Wellspring Victim Crisis Center: on campus twice a week and off campus with a 24 hour hotline
The Victim Advocates: through the health promotions office (accommodations for classes, work through anything you need, can provide students’ schedules)